A judge at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida issued a temporary restraining order against the Spirit Airlines Pilots Union three days ago, forcing them to stop a “work slowdown” that has forced the airline to delay or cancel 15% of the flights in its network.

“This is a result of unlawful labor activity by some Spirit pilots designed to disrupt operations for our customers,” read a statement released by the airline after news of the order broke.

The scene at the FLL Spirit terminal after Spirit flight cancelations as captured via cell phones of onlookers.
Source: USA Today

The term “disrupt operations for our customers” can’t be taken lightly in this situation, as a brawl broke out at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) following the cancellation of 9 flights and the delay of dozens of others. Spirit officials called local aviation police to the scene, and ABC News reports that three people were arrested after the incident, with charges of inciting or encouraging a riot, disorderly conduct, resisting an officer, and trespassing. At the time, the terminal had 500 stranded passengers inside after flight schedules were changed due to an absence of pilots.

The restraining order came after the airline couldn’t come to a labor agreement with its pilots. As days and weeks went on without a deal that both the airline and the union could agree on, some pilots became impatient. Some sources say that some pilots began requesting additional plane maintenance when none was needed, refusing to work overtime, or simply taking longer than usual to perform basic tasks, such as preflight checklists and taxiing.

The court’s ruling forbids pilots from “calling, permitting, instigating, authorizing, encouraging, participating in, approving, or continuing any form of interference with [the] Plaintiff’s airline operations, including, but not limited to, any strike, work stoppage, sick-out, slowdown, work to rule campaign, concerted refusal to accept voluntary or overtime flight assignments, or other concerted refusal to perform normal pilot operations consistent with the status quo, including but not limited to, slow taxiing, writing up maintenance items, calling in fatigued, delaying flights, refusing to answer a call from the scheduling, refusing to fly an aircraft that meets legal requirements for flight, or refusing to accept voluntary or overtime flying.” The order requires  pilots to resume their normal work schedule.

A hearing has been ordered for May 15th if no agreement can be made between the union and the airline. However, Spirit recently reached an agreement with the Airline Pilots Association (ALPA) to extend the restraining order indefinitely. Under the deal, the order will remain in place until a collective bargaining agreement is signed. The order could stay in effect until the two parties are leased from mediation by the National Mediation Board.

“On behalf of our customers and fellow Spirit team members, we really appreciate the efforts of our pilots who are taking on open flying to restore the operation,” said Spirit Chief Operations Officer John Bendoraitis.